Pierce County has agreed to pay $1.65 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a Fircrest man who died after being hit by a sheriff’s deputy responding to a call, the family’s attorney announced today.
Dale Neel, 61, was riding his moped home from work in September 2011 when he was struck by a patrol car driven by deputy Jason Smith. Smith was responding to a call at the time and had the car’s lights and sirens activated.
Neel was in the center turn lane on Emerson Street preparing to make a left turn on Woodside Drive when he either heard or saw Smith coming and moved to the right curb, court records show. Smith was traveling in the opposite direction and, apparently trying to avoid Neel, moved into the lane Neel turned into and hit the moped.
The deputy’s car then jumped the curb, went through two fences and hit a tree. The deputy suffered injuries but since has returned to the job, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Neel was critically injured and later died at an area hospital. He left behind a wife and two adult children.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Neel‘s wife and children by attorney Michael McKasy, claimed Smith was going above the 35 mph speed limit and was “negligent and reckless” in driving his patrol car.
Troyer said an investigation into the crash was conducted by the Tacoma Police Department. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the sheriff’s accident review board, which decided the collision was “nonpreventable,” he said.
“They both went to the same spot at the same time,” he said. “This was a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of life, and for that the department has offered its condolences to the family of Mr. Neel with the hope that this settlement will bring some peace and closure to the matter. ”